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The happy-hour menu abounds in salads, so we tried one. Ensalada Diabla offers beef slices, feta, spring greens, jicama, and a palate-clearing tamarind vinaigrette that took my mouth back to Thailand — I’d like the beef cut thinner, into strips, so they’re less assertive amid the gentle greenery. But my heart still belongs to the wonderful Ensalada de Nopalitos I’ve eaten downtown, with lush-textured strips of fresh nopal cactus pads, tomatoes, mozzarella, red and yellow peppers, and an oregano vinaigrette. But, hey, this restaurant has such a great array of salads — you want greens, just do your thing.

The happy-hour prices liberated me to play with silly cocktails to my heart’s content, instead of trying to get serious with wines. The caipirinha is tasty but inauthentically oversweet — it should be made of bashed-up limes and lime juice, a sprinkle of sugar and cachaça, and Brazilian white rum, without the addition of simple syrup (sugar and water cooked to a syrup, like the stuff in canned fruit), which makes it too louche. (I think it started as a “folk drink.” Cachaça was originally what my Trini friends call “bush rum,” until the serious liquor manufacturers woke up and realized they had a potential cash cow as caipirinhas gained popularity.) The margarita is so strong on Cointreau, I had to squeeze in the lime wedge to combat its orangey depths and balance the sweetness. Bartender must have a sweet tooth. Sam tried a delicious Cetto Chenin Blanc from Baja and an obscure, delicious Chilean Merlot, deep and pleasantly muddy, with the punch of a Cabernet.

Bottom line: Total indulgence for a huge happy-hour “review dinner” of grazes ran $83 plus tip for two (with way too much of everything, including three rounds of drinks). If you’re not reviewing or otherwise going crazy with self-indulgence, figure about $28 a person for a great grazing dinner, plus tax and tip and extra for drinks. Of course, happy-hour grazes don’t take you into the menu’s more artful if costly depths — but try, taste, and decide whether you want to come back and spend more to explore further. All I can say is — “¡Andale! ¡Ole!” Yeah, happy happens here.

Good News Note: Talented but ever-restless pastry chef Jack Fisher has finally alighted again, back at La Jolla’s 910 Restaurant, where he and executive chef Jason Knibb made a dream team a few years ago. (Hey, Jack, willya just stay put a while? Your fans want to know where to find you.)

Candelas on the Bay
(Very Good to Excellent)
Coronado Ferry Landing, 1201 First Street #115, Coronado, 619-435-4900, candelas-coronado.com.
HOURS: Monday–Thursday 11:00 a.m.–10:30 p.m., Friday to 11:00 p.m.; Saturday–Sunday breakfast 8:00 a.m.–10:30 p.m. Bar menu Thursday–Saturday until midnight, with happy-hour pricing after 10:00 p.m.
PRICES: Dinner appetizers, $12–$15; soups, $8–$15.50; salads, $7.50–$15; entrées, $16.50–$39 (most upper $20s). Happy hours, 50 percent off appetizers, soups, salads, drinks. Early-bird (4:00–6:00 p.m.) discounted dinner. Breakfasts and lunches moderate.
CUISINE AND BEVERAGES: Creative, French-influenced Mexican haute cuisine. Solid wine list, including Baja and Chilean bottlings, lots by the glass, full bar with fun cocktails, including “Mexican” martini flavors.
PICK HITS: Happy-hour menu: Crema Fabiola (poblano cream soup), Calamares Candelas (stuffed calamari), Estructura de Aguacate (chilled shellfish and avocado), Ensalada de Nopalitos (cactus-pad salad). Dinner menu, same items, plus Langosta Baeza (stuffed lobster tail), Camarones Cabo de Puertas (tequila-flamed tamarind-streaked prawns over sashimi-grade raw ahi), Placer Poblano steak, “La Pesca” (fish du jour in cuitlacoche cream sauce).
NEED TO KNOW: “Star rating” refers to happy-hour menu only; dinner menu may rate differently, as entrées are more ambitious. Reservations recommended for prime-time weekends and all summer, especially for bay-view patio (request when reserving). Park at left end of the lots. Happy hours 4:00–6:00 p.m. daily, 10:00–midnight Thursday–Saturday, bar only (plentiful tables). Few Cal-Mex standards at dinner, more at breakfast and lunch. Adequate light choices for lacto-vegetarians; one great lacto-veg dinner entrée (eggplant).

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Comments

Fred Williams May 13, 2009 @ 8:15 a.m.

Naomi, what's the difference between playing with silly cocktails and getting serious with wine?

Either way, I usually end up a bit tipsy...

:-)

As to narcissistic writers...well, kinda by definition...if you write, you've got to be either a fool or extremely confident in the worth of your words. Otherwise, what's the point?

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SDaniels May 6, 2009 @ 1:05 p.m.

"I think these bivalves want to strut around with a little bichon frise puppy poking its head out from a Fendi handbag — or a light cloak of beurre blanc, or some sort of Mexican designer-cream sauce wrapped around their shoulders."

Naomi, you've got a way!

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Naomi Wise May 12, 2009 @ 9:50 p.m.

To Neil Allen: (Letters, May 7)

I was flattered that you named me (and several of my other favorites on the paper) among your favorites. I didn’t read the article that drew your ire (too busy scribbling to deal with those front-page monsters). But my Cousin The Shrink (Elan Golomb) wrote a respected book about narcissism. (Her dad, my Uncle Louis, was Exhibit A).

There are three manifestations: First, there’s healthy,if wounded self-regard, that allows people to write for publication (which means sticking your neck out of the foxhole and letting unseen foes snipe at your ego.) You’re right about broken hearts – they must inspire this irrational need to communcate with strangers, maybe win/seduce some appreciatiation, and above all to create an alternative tribe (of readers) where the writers at last aren’t the tribal outcasts but respected scribes/story-tellers.

Then there’s classical narcissism-- obsessive self-love and self-absorption, where all that is perceived is the self in the mirror – Others not allowed. Think models.

Finally, clinical narcissism is the dangerous type. It’s not self-love but fierce self-hatred. To these types of narcissists, everyone who is at all accomplished is “superior” and wounding, and must be dragged down and destroyed. Clinical narcissists gravitate to positions of power, becoming the nightmare bosses who’ll publically humiliate their brightest, best-functioning employees. A lot of negative “isms” – racism, class-ism, sexism, size-ism, seem to be politically-manipulated manifestations of this dark impulse: “I may be trailer-trash but at least I’m not a Welfare Queen!” and all that. As I said, I didn’t read the article, but from the sound of it (unemployed, scornful of the employed) could be a Clinical Narcissist writing. Those hearts never break, they’re empty, hard, hungry shells. .

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SDaniels May 13, 2009 @ 1:08 a.m.

Naomi, I have a bit of background in psychoanalytic theory, from a literary perspective, and think there is more to be mentioned about the possibilities of the concept of a "healthy" narcissism.

The mythical figure of the pool-gazing Narcissus of yore could not hear Echo's amorous repetitions of his self-absorbed cries; if we consider that Echo was actually a projection of Narcissus, then, well, it appears that while Narcissus could look, he could not even listen to himself :)

Therein lies the rub. This oblivious lack of self-examination you describe of the third type is present to degrees in all three you mention--the emptiness comes from an 'othering' of the self that is incomplete, hollow, and projectional. Hence the narcissist's inability to find satisfaction in relationships, despite the futile compulsion to attempt to define and project one's self onto and as others.

Here's where I think a "healthy narcicissim" can and should enter. We all have need of mirroring, and the larger social identity you hint at with "dark impulses," especially in the form of nationalism, demonstrates at its core a complex need to define what we are by a perceived opposite--what we are not.

If we can use this need for mirroring to become self-reflexively open to examination of ourselves and others, we can at the least rediscover and redirect this 'othering' process to allow glimpses of "difference" with more understanding than hate and fear.

At any rate, here's to the delicious balm to the wound of self-and-other that is your regular column!

I am not familiar with Elan Golomb's book, but will be sure to see if it is check-out-able at Geisel. Thanks!

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David Dodd May 13, 2009 @ 2:41 a.m.

Writers are narcissists not necessarily by nature, but by default. I think it is part of the craft for a storyteller to bare one's soul, at least the good writers do. The not-so-good writers will, too, bare their soul, and I reckon Nasreen was caught up in that unavoidable trap.

But it doesn't make the writer a clinical narcissist.

I'm a very private person in many respects. I'm sort of lucky though, because I have the luxury of not caring at all what anyone might think of me. I'm immune, I don't much worry about how I come off, and I realize that part of writing is using my own life experiences in combination with whatever else I come across that might be compelling to a reader. The vehicle is important, because it drives us there.

Nasreen was unlucky. The vehicle she used in her story (sea turtles) wasn't strong enough to drive her story home in the eyes of Neil Allen. For Neil, she was being narcissistic. I only hope that Neil would be kinder to me were he to read one of my stories. Hopefully, my vehicle won't break down.

After all, it really isn't about me. It's about you, Neil. And about SD and Naomi and any other reader.

For a good example of what I'm driving at, read Charles Bukowski. Here was an ugly man who was beautiful. His life, and his life experiences, although all about him, were really about me and you. Narcissus? Almost the opposite.

I think I'll cut Nasreen a break, and give her another chance. William Carlos Williams' red wheelbarrow is a great vehicle, perhaps she'll try that one next time.

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burgess May 13, 2009 @ 11:37 a.m.

Hi Fred, I think you know who I am. How ironic we are talking about Happy Hour. I don't think we will be at odds on the blogs anymore. Let's just say I have seen the light. Drinking should be done in moderation. Being a moderate politically this makes sense to me. I have developed a certain disgust for those who do not drink moderately or show the immaturity to handle things with moderation. I think moderation is the key to happiness. It would be nice to hear from you. You may remember a certain friend of mine who shared your political persuasion. If you still have this persons phone number give him a call this person also shares our respect for moderation. Unlike someone who shall remain nameless who doesn't seem to have the ability to moderate anything. If you would like to contact me feel free to contact me on my myspace page. Have a Happy Happy hour.

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Fred Williams May 15, 2009 @ 7:28 a.m.

Hmmm. Now I'm wondering.

I think I know our mutual friend with a problem. He's been in the news a bit lately, heh?

But I'm still trying to figure out who you are...adding a face to your moniker.

I'm in Prague at the moment, drinking moderate amounts of the best beer in the world. Soon as I'm back in S.D., I'm looking forward to seeing you in person again.

Fred

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eajsandiego May 20, 2009 @ 8:22 p.m.

HEY WHAT IS GOING ON? THE SDAME NAOMI WISE PIECE 3 WEEKS RUNNING? terrible! very disappointing Eric Jones, San Diego

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jerome Sept. 2, 2009 @ 9:16 a.m.

holy cow....... and i thought she was just pimpin the resturant,which by the way is coolllio for me when i can afford it.

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